The Management Plan for the Lower White Salmon Wild and Scenic River (BZ Corners to the bridge at the old Northwestern Lake) was completed and approved in November, 1991. The Plan was developed over a three year period with intense involvement of federal, state, county, and private landowners. The Plan was crafted to meet the intent of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA).
The WSRA requires the Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORVs) for which the river was designated to be protected and enhanced. Five ORVs were identified for the Lower White Salmon WSR: Whitewater Boating, White Salmon River Gorge, Hydrology, Native American Indian Longhouse and Cemetery, and Resident Fish.
Since the Wild and Scenic River corridor is primarily privately owned, the plan states: “Close coordination with Klickitat County is especially important since county officials are responsible for administering the Shorelines Management Plan and county zoning ordinances, both of which are key elements in assuring the wild and scenic river values are protected.”
Since Plan development, the County’s main effort has been an attempt to rewrite the zoning laws to allow intense development within the river corridor, the antithesis of the Plan’s intent. Such heavy residential development with accompanying water needs would degrade the ORV, hydrology. The county’s rezone effort was defeated through a lawsuit brought by the Friends of the White Salmon River and the Friends of the Gorge in 2015.
The Plan calls for an aggressive lands acquisition program through trades and purchase between the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), National Forest, and SDS Lumber Company lands. Since an initial failed attempt to develop a comprehensive land trade between the three entities, nothing has been undertaken to accomplish this goal. Moreover, the county has shown no interest in cooperating in the protection of river values.
The Plan called for close monitoring of river resources and development on private lands within the established boundary. Since Plan development, implementation of the detailed Monitoring Plan by the Forest Service has been sporadic. Non consistent development of private lands has occurred with little interest from the county for enforcement. While the Forest Service has shown interest in these non-conforming uses, they lack the tools necessary to meet the intent of the Plan. Management of the river by the Forest Service has mainly concentrated on administration of river recreation uses (rafting and kayaking).
While it is clear the Forest Service cannot (or is reluctant to) carry out the full intent of the Plan, there has been no attempt to revise it. The Plan (Section III-4) states “this Plan will ordinarily be revised on a 10-year cycle, or at least every 15 years. It may also be revised when conditions and demands ….have changed significantly, or when the Area Manager determines that changes… would have a significant effect on the ability to implement the plan.” It goes on the state that the reintroduction of anadromous fish would be a trigger to undertake a plan revision.
It has been 25 years since the plan was approved. In this time the Forest Service did a review of outfitter guide permits (2011) because of national direction. The review resulted in no change to the then current outfitter guide number or direction. According to a Forest Service official, river recreation use has increased since the management plan was approved. Even though the plan is 25 years old, and given that anadromous fish have been re-introduced and recreation use is increasing, the Forest Service has no plans for revising the river plan at this time. And, since they will be doing a revision of the National Scenic Area Plan, they can see no opportunity to revise the river management plan in the near future.
To their credit, the Forest Service has been trying to meet with the county to discuss illegal development in the river corridor. So far, the county has showed no interest in meeting with them. Also, the Forest Service has shown interest in working with appropriate fisheries agencies in an effort to address recreation/fisheries conflicts.
The Friends of the White Salmon River continues to support close implementation of the Management Plan including a robust lands acquisition Program. Since the Plan was approved in 1991, significant changes to the river have occurred. Condit Dam was removed in 2011 allowing reintroduction of anadromous fish to the Wild and Scenic River section. This change alone cries out for a fresh look at the administration of the river by the Forest Service.